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Periodic Classification of Elements

Classification refers to arrangement of substances under a suitable system. All types of

classifications have certain criteria. Criteria decide the nature of classification.
There are more than 110 elements in nature and each one has several compounds. So, they require
a proper classification for the convenient study.
Since long scientists have tried very hard to put these elements under s suitable system fo
1. Dobereiner triad
In the year 1817, Johann W. Dobereiner, tried to arrange the elements with similar properties into
groups. He identified some groups having three elements each. So he called these
groups triads.
Dobereiner showed that when the three elements in a triad were written in the order of increasing
atomic masses; the atomic mass of the middle element was roughly the average of the atomic
masses of the other two elements.
Example Consider a triad, consisting of lithium (Li), sodium (Na) and potassium (K). Their atomic masses are
6.9, 23.0 and 39.0 respectively.
The average of the atomic masses of Li and K is equal to the atomic mass of sodium.
Dobereiner could identify only three triads from the elements known at that time. Hence, this system
of classification into triads was not found to be useful.
Newlands Law of Octaves
In 1866, John Newlands, arranged the then known elements in the order of increasing atomic
He started with the element having the lowest atomic mass (hydrogen) and ended at thorium which
was the 56th element.
He found that every eighth element had properties similar to that of the first.
He compared this to the octaves found in music. Therefore, he called it the Law of Octaves. It is
known as Newlands Law of Octaves.
Examples In Newlands Octaves, the properties of lithium and sodium were found to be the same. Sodium is
the eighth element after
Similarly, beryllium and magnesium resemble each other.
Reasons of rejection
It was found that the Law of Octaves was applicable only up to calcium, as after calcium
every eighth element did not possess properties similar to that of the first.
It was assumed by Newlands that only 56 elements existed in nature and no more elements
would be discovered in the future. But, later on, several new elements were discovered.
In order to fit elements into his Table, Newlands adjusted two elements in the same slot, but
also put some unlike elements under the same note. For example, cobalt and nickel are in
the same slot and these are placed in the same column as fluorine, chlorine and bromine
which have very different
properties than these elements.
Iron, which resembles cobalt and nickel in properties, has been placed far away from these
Thus, Newlands Law of Octaves worked well with lighter elements only. But due to lack of
universal application it was rejected.
Mendeleevs periodic table
The main credit for classifying elements goes to Dmitri Ivanovich Mendelev, a Russian chemist. He
was the most important contributor to the early development of a Periodic Table of elements.
In his table, he arranged the elements on the basis of their increasing masses. So, in his effort,
atomic mass was the used as the fundamental property of the element. According him all other
properties of the elements are based on their increasing mass. So, he given his periodic law-

Periodic law of Mendeleevs

Periodic properties of elements are the functions of their increasing atomic masses.
Mendeleevs periodic table
When Mendelev started his work, 63 elements were known. He examined the relationship
between the atomic masses of the elements and their physical and chemical properties.
Among chemical properties, Mendelev concentrated on the compounds formed by elements
oxygen and hydrogen.
He selected hydrogen and oxygen as they are very reactive and formed compounds with most
The formulae of the hydrides and oxides formed by an element were treated as one of the
basic properties of an element for its classification.
According he arranged the elelemts. He observed that most of the elements got a place in a
Periodic Table and were arranged in the order of their increasing atomic masses.
It was also observed that there occurs a periodic recurrence of elements with similar physical
and chemical properties.
Mendelevs Periodic Table contains vertical columns called groups and horizontal rows
called periods.
Achievements of Mendelevs Periodic Table
For grouping elements ith similar properties, at some places, Mendelev had to place an
element with a slightly greater atomic mass before an element with a slightly lower atomic
Mendelev left some gaps in his Periodic Table. Instead of looking upon these gaps as defects,
Mendelev boldly predicted the existence of some elements that had not been discovered at
that time.
Mendelev named them by prefixing a Sanskrit numeral, Eka (one) to the name of preceding
element in the same group.
For instance, scandium, gallium and germanium, discovered later, have properties similar to
Ekaboron, Ekaaluminium and Ekasilicon, respectively.
This provided convincing evidence for both the correctness and usefulness of Mendelevs
Periodic Table.
Further, it was the extraordinary success of Mendelevs prediction that led chemists not
only to accept his Periodic Table but also recognise him, as the originator of the concept on
which it is based.
Noble gases like helium (He), neon (Ne) and argon (Ar) have been mentioned in his table, but
these gases were discovered very late.
One of the strengths of Mendelevs Periodic Table was that, when these gases were
discovered, they could be placed in a new group without disturbing the existing order.
Limitations of Mendelevs Classification
Electronic configuration of hydrogen resembles that of alkali metals. Like alkali metals,
hydrogen combines with
halogens, oxygen and sulphur to form compounds having similar formulae. But other
properties are very different. Alkali metals are solid metals, while hydrogen is a non metal
hydrogen exists as diatomic molecule, while alkali metals do not form such molecules.
No fixed position was given to hydrogen.
Isotopes were discovered long after Mendelev had proposed his periodic classification of
elements. (Note - isotopes of an element have similar chemical properties, but different
atomic masses). Thus, isotopes of all elements posed a challenge to Mendeleevs Periodic Law.
Another problem was that the atomic masses do not increase in a regular manner in going
from one element to the next. So it was not possible to predict how many elements could be
discovered between two elements.

H. Moseley found that the atomic number of an element is a more fundamental property than its
atomic mass.
Accordingly, Mendelevs Periodic Law was modified and atomic number was adopted as the basis of
Modern Periodic Table.
So, the Modern Periodic Law can be stated as follows:
Properties of elements are a periodic function of their atomic number.
(Note - atomic number is the number of protons in the nucleus of an atom. It is represented with
sign Z).
Elements, when arranged in order of increasing atomic number Z, lead us to the classification
known as the Modern Periodic Table.
Prediction of properties of elements
The properties of elements which are changed gradually (in increasing or decreasing order) with the
increase in atomic number or according their placement in the periodic table are called periodic
Periodic properties directly depend upon the electronic configuration of the element.
The maximum number of electrons that can be placed in a shell, depends on the formula 2n2 where
n is the number of the given shell from the nucleus.
For example,
K Shell 2 (1)2 = 2, hence the first period has 2 elements.
L Shell 2 (2)2 = 8, hence the second period has 8 elements.
M Shell 2 (3)2 = 18, but the outermost shell can have only
8 electrons, so the third period also has only 8 elements.
The position of an element in the Periodic Table tells us about its chemical reactivity.
The valence electrons determine the kind and number of bonds formed by an element.
Trends in the Modern Periodic Table
1. Valency :
The number of electron which are either exchanged (given or taken) or shared by an element for
getting stability (during bond formation) is called its valency.
The valency of an element is determined by the number of valence electrons present in the
outermost shell of its atom.
In a period from left to right, positive valency increases, while negative valency decreases. In a group
the valency usually remains he same.
2. Atomic size:
The term atomic size refers to the radius of an atom. The atomic size may be visualised as the
distance between the centre of the nucleus and the outermost shell of an isolated atom.
The atomic radius of hydrogen atom is 37 pm (picometre, 1 pm = 1012m).
Atomic size increases from top to bottom in a group as the number of shell is added.
In a period however, the atomic size decreases on moving left to right. This is because, the number of
shell is not increased, but the amount of charge (electrons and protons) increase. This increases the
shielding effect. (Note- Shielding effect is the holding effect of nucleus on the electrons of outermost
3. Metallic and Non-metallic Properties
The metals like Na and Mg are towards the left-hand side of the Periodic Table while the non-metals
like sulphur and chlorine are found on the right-hand side. In the middle, we have silicon, which is
classified as a semi-metal or metalloid because it exhibits some properties of both metals and nonmetals.
Metallic property of an element is the tendency to loose or donate electron. The atom which looses its
electron quickly is said to be more metallic in nature. Metallic property is also called electropositive
character i.e., tendency to make a positive ion.
On the other hand non metallic property is the tendency of an element to gain or receive electrons.
More quick the gaining, more will be the non-metallic character. This character is also called
electronegativity i.e., tendency to make a negative ion. (Note fluorine is the most electronegative

In a group metallic character increases and non metallic character decreases. This is because in a
group, the number of shell increases so, shielding effect decreases. As a result, electrons can be
easily donated.
In a period, due to increasing shielding effect, the tendency to loose electrons decreases. So, metallic
character in a period decreases, while non metallic character increases.
So, metals are electropositive, while non metals are electronegative.